June 1, 2020 Banned and Restricted Announcement

Posted in News on June 1, 2020

By Ian Duke

Ian Duke is a developer in Magic R&D and has been with Wizards of the Coast since 2012. A gift of an Ice Age starter deck in 1995 sparked Ian's lifelong passion for Magic. He also enjoys math, physics, board games, and puzzles. To the surprise of few, his favorite guild is Azorius.

Announcement Date: June 1, 2020

New Companion Rule:

Once per game, any time you could cast a sorcery (during your main phase when the stack is empty), you can pay 3 generic mana to put your companion from your sideboard into your hand. This is a special action, not an activated ability.

Standard:

Agent of Treachery is banned.

Fires of Invention is banned.

Historic

Agent of Treachery is suspended.

Fires of Invention is suspended.

Tabletop Effective Date (Rules and B&R): June 1, 2020

MTG Arena B&R and Companion Rules Effective Date: June 4, 2020

Magic Online B&R Effective Date: June 1, 2020

Magic Online Companion Rules Update Effective Date: June 3, 2020

The list of all banned and restricted cards, by format, is here.


Companion Rules Change

While Magic rules changes aren't normally a part of the banned and restricted list updates, in this case, we're introducing a change to the companion mechanic that is motivated by game balance and metagame share across play environments. Effective with this update, the companion mechanic (and all cards featuring it) will now work differently from before. The new version of the mechanic will work as follows:

Once per game, any time you could cast a sorcery (during your main phase when the stack is empty), you can pay 3 generic mana to put your companion from your sideboard into your hand. This is a special action, not an activated ability. It happens immediately and can't be responded to. It can't be countered or stopped by cards like Phyrexian Revoker.

Our reason for making this change is based on metagame data and play rates of companion decks across all formats, and on player feedback on repetitive gameplay patterns. As a group, decks using companions have too high of win rates and metagame share in Standard, Pioneer, and Modern, and have already necessitated bans in Legacy and Vintage. This trend represents a long-term problem for the health and diversity of all formats. Rather than go down the path of making several individual adjustments to the banned list for each format, we feel the better solution is to reduce the advantage gained from using a companion across the board.

The result we intend is to reduce the metagame share of companion decks while still capturing the spirit of the mechanic's design and still having companions be worth building around in many cases. We expect that this new version of the companion mechanic will result in a deck-building challenge and means of self-expression that some players can opt into, rather than being a huge part of the competitive metagame.

We discussed several alternative rules changes but ultimately settled on this one, as it best mitigates the potential for repetitive gameplay and provides a wider window of interaction. By charging additional mana, playing a companion becomes less efficient relative to playing the other cards the player has drawn. In this way, players are more likely to cast their other spells before their companion, resulting in more divergent game paths. Next, this additional mana will often slow the companion down by a turn, allowing the opponent to interact with it while in the companion player's hand or otherwise giving the opponent an additional turn to plan ahead before the companion hits the battlefield.

It's rare that we use a rules change to address metagame balance, and this isn't something we have plans to do in the future. In this case, the issue wasn't with one individual card but rather the companions as a group. We believe this solution is preferable to potentially needing to make multiple bans across different formats over time.

Standard

Over the course of the last several weeks, Fires of Invention decks have risen to have a dominant win rate and metagame presence in Standard, achieving a 55% win rate and having even or favorable matchups against each of the other top ten archetypes. This indicates that metagame forces alone aren't sufficient to keep the deck in check.

In addition, as we craft and test future environments, we've found the card Fires of Invention to be a significant design and balance constraint. Because of the flexible nature of the cost reduction effect, Fires of Invention decks would continue to gain power as new high-mana-cost spells are added to the environment. As new sets have been released, we've seen the win rates of Fires of Invention decks increase compared to past Standard metagame environments.

Because of the Fires of Invention deck's current high win rate and metagame share, and the risks and design constraints it poses to the environment going forward, Fires of Invention is banned in Standard.

Next, recently we've seen a rise in archetypes that use either Lukka, Coppercoat Outcast or Winota, Joiner of Forces to put Agent of Treachery directly into play. While part of the design intent of these cards was to provide creative ways to deploy powerful high-mana-cost creatures, we've observed that using them to play an early Agent of Treachery can be uniquely frustrating to play against and difficult to come back from.

The effect of stealing any lands or key cards, when at a high play rate, reduces diversity in the metagame. Decks built around unique permanents or big creatures have less chances to succeed when opponents can steal their key cards without specific deck-building intent.

Therefore, in order to allow for more comeback potential against Lukka and Winota decks, and to promote deck-building diversity in Standard, Agent of Treachery is banned.

Historic

For similar reasons as in Standard, we're choosing to suspend Fires of Invention and Agent of Treachery in Historic. As we continue to watch Historic grow and monitor the evolution of the metagame, we will in the future reevaluate whether it's appropriate to unsuspend each of these cards or whether these suspensions will become bans.

MTG Arena Player Collections

Players who have Fires of Invention and/or Agent of Treachery as a part of their in-game collection on MTG Arena prior to the game update on June 4 will receive an equal number of rare Wildcards added to their collection as part of the update. Players will receive an in-game notification when the ban takes effect.

Players can still redeem Wildcards for Fires of Invention and/or Agent of Treachery for play in formats where the card is legal, such as Brawl or friendly Direct Challenge matches. There will be an additional confirmation messaging when crafting these cards to remind players that these cards are currently banned in Standard.

Players will not be receiving Wildcards as a result of the companion rules change, as these cards are still playable in both Standard and Historic.

PACK COLLATION

We will be adjusting the Throne of Eldraine and Core Set 2020 pack collation to change the rate in which Fires of Invention and Agent of Treachery appear in booster packs. After the June 4 game update, players will only receive copies of these cards if they have collected playsets of every other Standard-legal rare card available in the respective boosters.

These changes will not impact the collation of cards in Limited boosters used in Throne of Eldraine or Core Set 2020 Sealed and Draft events (cards will still appear at their original distribution rate).

There are no changes to pack collation as part of the companion rules change.

INDIVIDUAL CARD REWARDS (ICRS)

Fires of Invention and Agent of Treachery will be removed from Standard ICRs. As a note, these cards are currently not available as Historic ICRs.

Companion cards will still be obtainable as ICRs.

A Note on MTG Arena Events

Constructed Events

If you were participating in a Traditional Standard, Traditional Historic, Standard Event, and/or Historic Event using a deck that included these cards prior to the June 4 game update, you will still be able to complete the event with your current deck. Please note that your deck will be flagged as invalid because of the ban, however, this will not prevent you from finishing a previously entered event. Once you have finished the current event, you will no longer be able to submit decks that contain these cards.

Play Queues

These card bans and suspensions will immediately go into effect for all Standard and Historic play queues once maintenance on June 4 is complete. This includes Standard Ranked, Traditional Standard Play, Traditional Standard Ranked, Traditional Historic Ranked, and Historic Ranked.

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